Citybuilding comes to Springfield (briefly) with The Simpsons: Tapped Out

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By Pete Davison Comments

The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a new iOS game from EA and Fox Digital. The free-to-play game was available for a short period on the App Store worldwide, but has since been temporarily removed due to widespread connection problems reported by players. It’s the second time this month that EA has had to pull a marquee-brand mobile title from the App Store. Last week EA made the decision to pull, and then cancel the free-to-play Battlefield 3: Aftershock due to complaints about the game’s quality, size and players inability to connect to servers.

“To ensure current players have the best possible experience, we’ve temporarily removed The Simpsons: Tapped Out from the App Store to limit the game’s server capacity to its current players and address connectivity and lag time issues,” reads the statement from EA. Players who have already downloaded the game will be able to continue to play normally.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out is based on the premise that Homer Simpson was too addicted to a “myPad” tablet-based social game (with uncanny resemblances to Capcom’s Smurfs’ Village) to notice that the Springfield nuclear power plant was about to explode. The subsequent nuclear explosion destroys the town and scatters the residents far and wide, though no one is actually harmed.

The game begins with Homer standing forlorn in an empty field. A tutorial walks players through getting their new Springfield up and running by building the Simpsons’ house, the Kwik-E-Mart and a road. The tutorial also introduces the game’s “character action” mechanic, which allows players to tap on one of the Simpsons characters they have discovered and order them to do something appropriate for their personality, with experience point and soft currency rewards on offer. Further actions for characters are unlocked through quests and building specific items — for example, building a paddling pool unlocks the ability for Homer to go and lounge in it for six hours.

Progressing through the game’s experience levels and completing quests rewards players with Donuts, the game’s hard currency, which can also be acquired through in-app purchase. Donuts can be used for the usual array of hard currency applications seen in games like this — rushing time-consuming tasks, skipping quest objectives and purchasing premium items. A variety of iconic Springfield buildings are only available for purchase using Donuts, so if players wish to create an authentic, complete map of the Simpsons’ hometown, they will either need to save up their Donuts acquired during a long period of play, or spend real money.

As per usual for EA, the publisher has elected to use its proprietary Origin network for social features rather than incorporating more widely-adopted services such as Game Center and OpenFeint. Players are able to visit friends’ Springfields (which are explained by Professor Frink as being parallel dimensions in which Homer still managed to destroy the whole town) and perform daily actions for soft currency and experience point rewards.

The game is infused with a highly self-referential sense of humor, much like the Simpsons TV show. It openly mocks established conventions of social and mobile games on a regular basis, but then uses most of the mechanics it lampoons to form the basis of its own gameplay. In gameplay terms, there is little to be found here that hasn’t been seen many times elsewhere, but the self-aware good humor with which it is presented coupled with the polished presentation (which features the full regular voice cast of the show) make Tapped Out likely to be a big success, particularly if the currently-overloaded servers are anything to go by.

There’s no news from EA on when we can expect to see The Simpsons: Tapped Out back on the App Store again. As such, it is not currently listed in any App Store leaderboards. When it returns, you’ll be able to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers. In the meantime, EA will be providing updates on the game through its support site.